International Census at School Workshop Held in Conjunction with JSM 2012
Rebecca Nichols, ASA Director of Education
The American Statistical Association sponsored the 2012 International Census at School Workshop at the end of the Joint Statistical Meetings in San Diego, California, on August 2 and 3.
Census at School is a free, international classroom project that engages students in grades 4–12 in statistical problemsolving using their own real data. Under the direction of their teachers, students involved in the program anonymously complete an online survey, analyze their class census data, and then compare those results with results from random samples of participating students throughout the world. The Census at School project began in the United Kingdom in 2000 and now includes Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland, Japan, Korea, and the United States. Statistics education leaders from other countries also are investigating bringing the project to their country.
The two-day meeting provided an opportunity for international Census at School leaders and U.S. Census at School champions to coordinate the international Census at School project, share hands-on curriculum materials, achieve common understanding of the international project, acquire experience with country-specific data-handing activities and resources for teachers and students, and increase awareness of international efforts to improve statistical literacy in school children.
Roxy Peck of Cal Poly and Rob Gould of the University of California at Los Angeles chaired the workshop program committee, which included international Census at School leaders and U.S. Census at School leaders and champions. Workshop presenters and participants included international leaders and representatives from the United Kingdom, South Africa, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, and Paraguay. Although they could not attend in person, leaders from Australia sent a written report to update the international leaders regarding the project in Australia.
Statisticians involved or interested in getting involved with U.S. Census at School and representatives from the U.S. Census Bureau and their Statistics in Schools program also participated in the meeting. ASA President Bob Rodriguez and ASA Executive Director Ron Wasserstein welcomed participants.
August 2 sessions included an overview of the project and a look to the future by Neville Davies of Census at School UK and creator of the International Census at School program. Country representatives then gave updates from their countries (Rebecca Nichols, United States; Kate Richards, United Kingdom; Angela McCanny and John Brewster, Canada; Chris Wild, New Zealand; Delia North, South Africa; and Michiko Watanaba and Kanzunor Yamaguchi, Japan). There also was time spent remembering Martha Aliaga, former ASA director of education, who was instrumental in bringing Census at School to the United States.
Additionally, Stephen Miller taught a separate workshop in the morning to introduce middle- and high-school teachers and statisticians interested in getting involved in U.S. Census at School to the program. Workshop participants learned about the Census at School program, how it aligns with the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics, how to register a class, and what resources are available for teachers using Census at School. Additionally, participants actively collected data, learned how to enter it into the Census at School database, and selected random samples of data entered by students. Participants generated statistical questions that can be answered using Census at School data, used software to make numerical and graphical summaries of the data, and answered the statistical questions.
U.S. teachers and statisticians participating in the morning workshop joined the international group in the afternoon, when international leaders demonstrated international Census at School curriculum resources, statistics software, and activities. All attendees were invited to a dinner that evening and a presentation given by Eric Newburger of the U.S. Census Bureau.
August 3 workshop sessions for international leaders included discussions about evaluating the effectiveness of Census at School programs, growing support for Census at School, building relationships with official census organizations, expanding the program, funding, sharing resources, identifying common concerns, volunteer support, and strategies to address concerns.
As of August 2012, there were more than 8,500 students from 41 states plus the District of Columbia who had participated in the U.S. Census at School program. Teachers who are comfortable with statistical problemsolving and data analysis can begin using the program in their classes at any time. There are detailed instructions, five instructional webinars, a PowerPoint presentation, lesson plans, and other resources on the website.
The ASA is seeking champions to expand the U.S. Census at School program. Champions can be teachers who use the program in their classes or statisticians and statistics educators who assist teachers who are not yet comfortable with statistics and statistical problemsolving. There is a variety of ways to get involved, including sharing information about the program with local schools, writing lesson plans, and teaching local workshops for teachers. For those interested in teaching local workshops, the ASA will provide materials.
The ASA also is building online Census at School resources and seeking those interested in writing new lesson plans or adapting international Census at School lesson plans for U.S. data. Those teaching grades 4–12 pre-service teachers might consider encouraging them to create lesson plans using U.S. Census at School data and submit them to the STatistics Education Web (STEW), an online bank of peer-reviewed lesson plans for K–12 teachers. STEW lesson plans relating to Census at School also will be published on the Census at School website in the resources area.
Educators teaching or advising undergraduate or graduate statistics students might consider encouraging or requiring them to get involved in service learning by working with grades 4–12 teachers and students to incorporate Census at School and enhance their statistical problemsolving skills.
For more information about the U.S. Census at School program, see the February 2012 Amstat News article and the U.S. Census at School website. Other ideas to enhance and expand the program are welcome. Contact Rebecca Nichols, ASA director of education, at firstname.lastname@example.org about these or any efforts regarding service learning or other activities.